NDC secretary general Mwenya Musenge says Zambians must fight to stop the cancer of Chinese loan projects that are riddled with corruption and only go to satisfy the lavish lifestyles of the ruling elite.
On Friday last week, civil society organisations, among them ACA, NGOCC, ZCSD and ActionAid, challenged government to stop and think about the consequences of its continued reckless borrowing from China; warning that failure to listen would cost PF votes at the next election.
And Musenge has dismissed the reasons advanced by PF deputy media director Antonio Mwanza that Chinese-funded projects should be supported since local contractors have no financial capacity to handle huge contracts.
Meanwhile, the former Copperbelt Province minister has complained that his children cannot be employed anywhere because they are carrying his surname.
Last week, Mwanza insisted that Zambian companies had no financial muscle, as as such, citizens needed to accept Chinese-funded projects. But Musenge reminded Mwanza that Zambia would still need to repay CHinese loans that come in form of infrastructure financing.
“It is very unfortunate that PF can give that as the reason of engaging foreign contractors. One thing that ought to be understood is that whatever contracts are given to Chinese firms, those are debts that are being incurred on behalf of government. And whatever amount of money they bring in as their working capital, it is their money, which they will have to recover at the end of the day. So, that cannot be a reason why we should allow and encourage such a system to continue. Moreover, this kind of approach towards projects and contracts in this country is very costly because then, it is the Chinese, who at the end of the day, call the shots because the way this system works is that, the Chinese are able to tell you to say, ‘we have so much money, we can get money from China and this contract can be done’ and such contracts, usually the figures are exaggerated,” Musenge observed.
He said the NDC had no problem with the Chinese getting contracts, but had issues with the corruption they were involved in.
“So, for us as NDC, I want to put it very clear that, we have no problem for Chinese to do contracts in Zambia, but the major issue that has come up is the high levels of corruption in all these contracts that are being done by the Chinese firms! For example, a school which is supposed to be constructed at a cost of maybe K2-3 million, such a school will go to about K20, 30, or 40 million. We gave a practical example of the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway, and we have also spoken about the new airport that is about to be constructed in Ndola. That is why we are saying this is the project, which even the late Michael Chilufya Sata, had to withdraw because the figures that were coming out, the amounts that they were asking for were just beyond comprehension,” recalled Musenge.
“So, what really needs to be controlled are these corrupt tenders of exaggerating contract amounts. So, you find that whichever project in Zambia, whatever contract is signed by government, there is a big chunk that is taken by those in higher offices. Now, this is the disease, this is a cancer that we need to fight as a nation. The country is being deprived of development because of very few selfish individuals! And this mind of always wanting to get chunks from each and every contract is what we in NDC are against. We don’t hate the Chinese people, we hate imisango yabo (their deeds).”
The former minister complained that his family was being punished because of his name.
“Can you say this is a caring government? And now we have this student’s loan recovery, a lot of students who graduated are not in employment. I have children who graduated from the University of Zambia; none of them is working! To make matters worse, my children are being…because of carrying my name, they cannot be employed. Once they see that it is Mwenya Musenge, they are told, ‘no, you will cost us our jobs’. This is the type of nonsense that we have in this country,” Musenge complained.
And he disagreed with the PF government’s repeated claims of not having introduced any taxes.
“I don’t agree with them. You see there are a number of taxes already. It’s not about introducing new taxes. It’s also by increasing the amount of tax that is being deducted. Are they saying since they came into government, they have never reviewed the taxes in this country? Can they be able to tell us because the PF manifesto is about lower taxes and more money in the people’s pockets; can they tell us any of the taxes that they have managed to reduce since they took over as PF in government? We are now talking about the WhatsApp and Internet tariff, which is another tax! Is it not them who have introduced it? Did we find it? Or did they find it? And not only that, there are a number of taxes that we know,” observed Musenge.